Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How did I get so lucky?

Papa & Paisly- Christmas 2012

What I love about my life today: The forty-two Christmases that Gary Cleveland and I spent together. He loved Christmas, but he hated, I mean hated shopping and wrapping. He was very content to be surprised on Christmas morning along with everyone else, even with the gifts he supposedly “picked out”. However, the gifts he made himself were special. He loved tinkering in his workshop and coming up with the perfect gift. From doll wardrobes, to work benches, to woodcarvings, to weathervanes, little did we know how precious those gifts would become. And then there is the Christmas music. The man loved it all from traditional, to country, to hip-hop, to disco, to singing dogs and frogs. We’re even the proud owners of a Green Bay Packer Christmas CD— vintage 1985 or so.
And of course, Christmas 2012 was my favorite. I think we knew that it was probably our last together. Neither of us said it out loud, but we knew the cancer was gaining ground. So we made it special. We invited my whole family to pack it in a car and bring it North. Of course how do you sleep 20 people in a three-bedroom house? So, all summer long Gary worked on what we called the Bird’s Nest, the little room over his workshop. He insulated it, put in a new window and electric heat. He even decorated it himself—traditional rummage sale/man cave. Gary spent hours on this project and loved every minute of it. A couple of days before Christmas our family started rolling in. Great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins and grandchildren, plus eighteen inches of snow. What could be more perfect? The Hubs and I slept in Bird’s Nest and gave our bed to my parents. We were wall-to-wall people, stepping over puppies and children and wrapped gifts. Our kitchen was always full and the coffee pot never empty, at least not for long. It was glorious!
Christmas Tree- 2012
My favorite moment? Taking Gary’s hand each evening and tromping through the snow to our little nest. Gary had strung Christmas lights up there (they are still there) and when we climbed the stairs and entered the room, it was like every fun event we’d ever experienced together— camping, vacations, homemaking, parenting, building, growing and loving bottlenecked into that one toasty little space. Cozied up under a pile of blankets with the winter wind howling and icy crystals creating one-of-a-kind art on the windowpanes, I remember sleeping next to this bear of a man and thinking: how did I get so lucky?
Dear ones, enjoy your Christmas. Hug and hang on tight to everyone you love. Make magic happen this season. Nothing is too small to dote over and make a memory with. The Christmas tree, the stockings hung with care, the tasty treats, the hot chocolate, the sparkle of lights, the tiny hands, the rosy cheeks, the grandparents, the newborns, the wrapping paper and the quiet candle-lit moments. Embrace. Give thanks. Allow this season to take your breath away— for it will be these exact memories that will one day give light to all dark passageways and will gently escort you slowly back to what’s what: How did I get so lucky?
May our Lord shine upon you and give you peace. May His Son bring you hope and healing all the year through. May your days be filled with thanksgiving and breath-taking joy. And, may you never waste another moment.
Merry Christmas. Thank you for your faithfulness, encouragement and for walking with me on this journey. LuLu’s Chronicles will return in January 2014.

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